fear, itself [Re: Rights and fear.]

Dave Long dl@silcom.com
Wed, 26 Mar 2003 08:54:14 -0800


>               Yes, we could live traipsing through Huxleyland without a care
> in the world but very little good would come from it.  Real people living in
> the real world *need* fear.  

This statement confuses the disagreeable
with the truly terrible.  People need some
motivating gradient[0], but why would fear
be a suitable one to use?

Fear, in its acute form, is the adrenaline
dump.  It is the quickening of reflexes and
the strengthening of muscles.  But it is
also the lily-livering[1] and the loss of
fine motor control[2].

Fear, in its chronic form, is the utility
distortion.  It is keeping a bag packed by
the door, so one won't disturb one's family
when the state comes to haul one off; it is
the breakdown of civil society during the
Peloponessian War plague [3].

Needless to say, neither of these forms is
particularly conducive to sound judgement.

>                              Fear is the motivator that causes all the most
> fundamental problems to be addressed.  Poverty, disease, death, and war are
> all conditions that have been incrementally solved because people fear them.

Have they been attacked by the people who
fear them, or by the people who do not care
for them, and act rationally to solve them?

As far as I can tell, people who are truly
afraid of poverty, afraid of death, etc. are
more likely to act to make sure that others
are closer in line to poverty, death, etc.
("the devil take the hindmost") than to act
to reduce the incidence of such conditions.

People have had a few hundred thousand years
on this planet to fear the four horsemen, but
for how long have they effectively addressed
them?  Perhaps only in the last ten thousand,
during which time some of the population has
felt secure enough to be able to stop fearing
and to start thinking.

-Dave

:: :: ::

[0] I think the world looks better when
one exercises the four F's (fighting,
fleeing, feeding, and mating) regularly.
Sport suffices for the former pair, and
the latter pair (and the more cerebral
cares) don't have any obvious connection
with fear.  Is it really necessary?

[1] Dr. Barber suggests that adrenaline
diverts blood away from the liver to more
immediate needs, hence any prey taken by
surprise would have dark livers, but if
taken in a chase would be "lily livered".
Any FoRKs have evidence?  This would tend
to accord with greek belief in the liver
as the seat of emotions.

[2] Would you prefer to be Bernini's, or
Michelangelo's, David?  Bernini's is an
action/adventure hero, whose sidekick has
just been brutally murdered, and who is
fixing to pop the top on a tallboy can of
whupass on Goliath, but Michelangelo's is
a better bet to make the first cast count.

[3]
> ... whatever contributed to pleasure, wherever it came from, that
> was now the good and the useful.  Fear of the gods?  The laws of man?
> No one held back, concluding that as to the gods, it made no difference
> whether you worshipped or not since they saw that all alike were dying;
> and as to breaking the law, no one expected to live long enough to go
> to court and pay his penalty.  The far more terrible verdict which had
> already been delivered against them was hanging over their heads --
> so it was only natural to enjoy life a little before it came down.

:: :: ::

>                                            Fear is an immensely constructive
> force over time, but it requires a bit of boldness in the human spirit to
> bear fruit.

Perhaps boldness would bear (and bear
a less bitter fruit?) by itself alone,
not needing the force of fear.

Xenophon (quoting Simon):
> For what a horse does under constraint, it does without understanding,
> and with no more grace than a dancer would show if whipped and spurred.
> Under such treatment horse and human alike will do much more that is
> ugly than graceful.

The problem of people in Huxleyland is
not so much that they do not fear, as
that they do not strive.